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Offending Your Customers

Yesterday I received an email from a startup on the west coast. I had informally advised the founder, who seems like a nice guy with a good product and viable startup.

But I was immediately put off by the headline of what was a blog post, which was about, well, I’m not going to get into it because I don’t want to call him out publicly for it, but it reflected the poor taste delivered in the headline. So I’ll have to be vague because the googles are pretty good.

I immediately responded to the email saying it’s terrible messaging. He questioned that; his target market is much younger than I, and the language he used is somewhat accepted among that demographic.

But it still sounded bad to me.

Here’s my point: you can effectively position your brand and product without using offensive language. You can get your point across without sending something that reflects poorly on you.

Now maybe that’s your gig; plenty of companies have done very well by pissing off a good chunk of the market in order to appeal to another.

But to me (and I have to admit there was a time I pushed the limits, especially with ChiliSoft), startups can really undermine their credibility by alienating people when that’s not really their core value and brand.

In this case, the language was not aligned with the mission, brand, or style, and I’d throw this in too: target market. It’s a miscalculation to think that just because you have a young audience that it will respond positively to poor taste.

Some will like it, and some won’t care, but some will care very deeply, and you’ll have a bit of a mess to clean if they let you and don’t simply walk away, or worse–stop caring at all.

The blog post is gone, and the Facebook post has been removed. I’m guessing I wasn’t the only one who complained.

Good choice–you can do better, and I’m sure you will.

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